The Below-the-Belt Manager: Fact Or Fiction?

Dec. 21, 2004

Eric Broder has written a management book to end all management books. I recommend you read The Below-the-Belt Manager (1998, Warner Books). Broder says he wrote it because of the countless management and leadership books that have crossed his desk in the last several years. Those books, he says, have a variety of words in their titles and chapter headings that keep popping up again and again. Words such as empowerment, reengineering, nurturing, praise, learning, teamwork, communication, healing, listening, balance, rewards, dignity, and heart. You wont find those words in Broders book. Instead, youll find such words as pain, fear, punishment, intimidation, oppression, blame, punk, lackey, nitwit, and terminate. "If you like my words as much as I do -- if they make you tingle all over -- then you have the qualities of genuine leadership," Broder writes. "And you should read on. If you dont love these words -- if they shock you, or make you all whiny and weepy -- by all means read those touchy-feely management books. You and all your friends can reward and nurture yourselves out of your jobs. The rest of us will run things. Just stay the hell out of our way." Broder is funny, imaginative, articulate, and he does a masterful job of describing "the boss underlings love to hate." In answer to his own question: "Who am I?" Broder says, "You can call me Sir. Why? Because I am the boss. Me. Im the head honcho, the superchief, the commandant, the top dog, the chairman of the board. Got it? . . . Im the chief executive officer of a successful company in the Midwest. I have a high-paying job. . . . I sit in a deluxe office, complete with wet bar, a Matisse and two Picassos on the walls, Corinthian leather furniture, a $15,000 stereo system, two secretaries, and a personal security guard. Adjacent to my office are a private gym, massage room, and a bathroom with a sunken whirlpool tub. I drive a Lexus and live in a $14 million home. Why do I have all these nice things? Because I get results. And getting results comes from knowing how to work with people. Here is my definition of people: Creatures who do what I tell them to do, when I tell them to do it, while receiving as little pay from me as possible in return. Yes, I treat employees the old-fashioned way: I exploit them. I dont imagine that these people enjoy being underpaid, abused, ordered without regard to their feelings, and in general treated like faceless cogs in a huge, all-consuming machine. But look at it from my point of view: Who cares? Whats important is that I enjoy it and the companys bottom line enjoys it. The companys profits have increased 20% under my leadership. My board of directors sure likes those numbers. And theyre not terribly interested in how I go about getting them, just as long as I do." I know what Broders talking about. I once worked for a chief executive like the one he describes. Egocentric. Dictatorial. Demanding. Foul-mouthed. Demeaning. But he was also successful. And therein lies the problem. Working for him was a painful experience I had almost forgotten until I read Broders book. Now you can learn about below-the-belt managers without having to work for them. The book features "testimonials" from bosses all over the world:

  • "I thought I was a monster before! This beautifully written book helped me to turn into the Thing From Another World!"
  • "Now even my kids hate my guts! Especially the ones who work for me!"
  • "I can now make them fear just getting out of bed in the morning, never mind actually showing up for a days work! Bravo on all counts!"
And from employees:
  • "I went through thousands of hours of therapy to cope with my boss. Then she read your book. Thats $45,000 down the drain."
  • "My boss loved your book -- Im writing this from the unemployment line. Thanks for nothing!"
Eric Broder has done us a great service. I think. Sal F. Marino is chairman emeritus of Penton Media Inc. and an IW contributing editor. His e-mail address is [email protected].

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